Excerpts from Stephen Dietz's ongoing diary with Lauren, 2002
It occurred to me now that writing is the best means of translating this experience, as it is inward,bearing little relation to the project's appearance. When speaking for the tape, I stressed thatothers had begun to accept me. Although this is not completely true, it not acceptance that isimportant. This morning, while walking, I realized that I have spent little time in simply being. Iam less tense, less ready to judge. Lauren is quick to judge, to find complaint, to be irritated. Thisis not my relationship to the world, and one that I diligently try to avoid. I found myself, however(because she came back momentarily to handle some business), staring at a driver who verynearly ran me over today. I didn't imagine that the woman would stop as I entered the cross walkand when she finally screeched to a halt, I turned around to stare at her as if to say, "Whatmanner of person...." This is not natural to me, and I was a bit alarmed by it. I had to repeat thewords "love, love, love" in order to regain myself.
I crave time, time to walk, to think, to be alone, to read. I find myself slightly objecting to thosethings that come before these pleasures but realize quickly that everything is my choice. I havethe desire to help others, to be of service, and so when my desire to serve interrupts, as itnaturally must, my occasion to be alone, I must say to myself, this too is my desire. It is. I mustremember that.
Can't stop thinking about the man I supposed to be the sacristan at the church. So virile, sohealthy and of himself was he that I took him for a young vagrant.
I must also relinquish my former judgments regarding Christ, the secret sticking point of mybudding Christianity. Poor perverted Christianity with its stress on human inadequacy.......this istroubling and alluring simultaneously. I want to lose and care for myself at the same time. Is thispossible? More prayer.
Do not reject your own thoughts, Stephen.
I lost all control today, reverting to my former self. It was easier. But in doing so I was able toreclaim a fondness for my former self, a feature I was sorely lacking before.
(Only Stephen can handle emptiness. Sadness when M. died, everything lifeless.)
Being myself here in this body....ha....makes me wonder what life is. Yesterday I had the strangeexperience of reading at a coffee shop among many "Hollywood types," including twocomedians almost out of a Scorcese flick, a snake and a tattered lion, bantering with one anotherabout money and opportunities. "Here's all I want...a 600, 000 development deal," the one saidtwisting in his patio chair. "I would shudder, I would shudder..." the other murmured repeatedlyto himself. Meanwhile another man smoking into his cell phone asked, "Is it medium format?When do you want to do the shoot?" Two girls complained, "I look soooo much better oncamera." I laughed to myself about the superficiality of personality and the unlikeliness ofknowing oneself in this town where everyone is performing. If they only knew. But howimpossible to reach goals of the contemplative life. I can't imagine myself cut out for it.Everything tires me. The slowness of my body, the generality of my thoughts, the wandering. Iam much stronger than Lauren and so I have to stay. For me, there is a beautiful sweetness insorrow, but this too is connected to my isolation. If not contemplation, then what? I ask myself. Ihave few skills, if any. I am unemployable. My motion is too slow, my energy too low for thistown. I am best in nature, poured out.
The Bible again today. I take no inspiration. Perhaps because yet again I encounter Christianmoralism as a way to remove oneself from life, to set oneself apart and refuse to move intounderstanding with others. Is there an example of Christian love? Of course this is rhetorical, butI have not come across it lately. At the same time, I crave to read more. Why not the active lifethen? Is it my own intolerance for people? Yes, likely. Then I am lost.
More Bible. St. John, St. Luke. Looking at a photograph of my nephews and nieces, theimmersion in feeling that I recall from childhood, the not knowing, I thought, that is the light,no? Can't get away from the political battles in both the old and new testaments. But here I amagain thinking of the Russian Orthodox church. It's the idea of being drawn back into the earth,into communion with it that invites me, a kind of animism, a wonderment that is the desire tocrawl back into history, into the sufferings of the Russian serfs, the Jews. What is beneath it? Mystudies are haphazard, sleep-ridden. Bayush caught me lying in the sun with the Bible under myhead as a pillow. A far cry from serfdom, I'll say.
Tonight I will serve as an "old crone" to ruffle the waters in a performance installation. No oneelse is as convenient or as available. Welcome the chance to dream. Hope that I move far, faraway. I felt almost humiliated, however, wearing the costume during rehearsal. I have to laughat myself. I do. I do. I looked like an old woman on her way to cocktail party among the dead.Poor Stephen I said to myself. I must be a kind of joke. No, take that thought away.
I have a dead twin.
This is Lauren. Stephen is gone this week, because I need my own energy to get work done. Ireally like Stephen; he is changing my life. Through him I see that personality is mutable, easilyin fact. Normally, I am full of energy, impatience, my attention is scattered and I hold a lot ofresentment. Stephen has none of these characteristics. He is almost without resentment, forexample, and he is entirely compassionate. He does not judge, discount, or utilize people for hisown ends. He is not without defenses or resources, however. This is one of the most surprisingfacets of being him. I thought that I would be more easily deceived, for example, but the reverseis true. He takes time to listen and assess others and by virtue of this, protects himself, when andif necessary. I also thought that I would get work done as usual. This was not true. Stephen's aimis to serve others and find time for mediation and study. His relationship with the world, then, isdeeper, slower, and he is less concerned with achievement. This is the way in which he mostaffected me--that is, by his deep and concentrated focus on these aspects of life. I wanted, andstill want, a way to expand my life experience and I give a lot of lip service to spiritual aspects oflife, taking a kind of curious interest in them, but I have not allowed myself the time to actuallyhave these experiences. Maybe I feel I will lose my personality or that something important willbe taken away from me. Stephen has shown me that that might not be so and that I will gain a lotby letting go of some of my former ideas about success and time. However, this is very hard tomaintain without him. I completely left or lost him yesterday and boy, oh, boy did my formerpersonality come back. I am a bitch,and I have a lot of anger. I am focused on moving ahead withart projects and with doing things my way. Okay, I think I'm being unfair to myself when I sayI'm a bitch, but I do have a lot resentment and have to work on that. It was just too weird to seehow much I lost him, how easily it was for me to revert back to my previous life without holdingon to these experiences. I feel like I need him back for a while. He will come back. Another thingthat I wanted to talk about was my extreme awareness of myself when I came out of him andback into myself. I could feel my jaw line, the way I looked at the world, my body, in a differentway. I knew I was me and not him, just as the reverse is true when he comes back.
I feel my own extraordinary inability to deal with myself as I am. I feel my own anger andirritation deeply. I mediated in the morning, at the library, and in the afternoon. No connectionaside from a moment of slight sympathy and horror as I reminded myself of the enslavedcondition of animals; but other than that---sleepy, anxious, irritated, indulgent. How much I wantto be a good person, how little I strive. I curb my irritation only by silence. My heart, however, isirritated!!!!! and it shows. I know that this period of time will end, thank the Lord. But what todo in the meantime. It's been weeks. I was, curiously, only appeased by imagining my own death(per Buddhist instructions) and enjoying the possibility of real hells. How will I stay out ofthem? Or rather, how can I sustain sufficient belief in them to try just a little harder to be ofclean mind.
Loneliness. Sadness. My anger isolates me. My inability to face confrontation grows. Rarely do Icry, but I feel near to it now. Can't manage anything, including typing. Yesterday, whilecleaning, I had some realization, a fleeting sensation of absolute nothingness. This is my bestachievement so far. Emmet Fox, the Bible, Dalai Lama's Path to Enlightenment, all too much forme. Maybe this nagging of my faults is in some way positive. I thought that it might be at least asign of recognition of the illness, so that cure is possible, but I am increasingly petty. I felt Laurenin me---things are confused again; she gets through and I have to stuff her back in. I almost,almost--for a fraction of a second--started to get very pissy and aggressive with a clerk. But I fellback into myself and looked about rather glumly, realizing I had neither the tools nor the will tostand up for myself. But there I was left with the sadness.
I thought I might determine the best line of work for myself, but this thought passed. Haha. It'snot really that funny, is it Stephen? You have gifts, but inertia, self-interest, which keeps youfrom action. You are also a bit weak-willed. Not to attack myself, that is a form ofself-indulgence indeed. But I see that I am in a period of inaction and sorrow.
Job inspires me. Not that I compare myself to Job, of course, but today reading the text again, Ifelt awe. To believe, to believe without question. Faith is essential. The problem is that, for me atleast, contemporary life denies faith, ridicules and subordinates it to reason, which indeed has itslimits. (No, contemporary life subordinates faith not to reason, but to cynicism, almost tonihilism, a brand of faith, I guess. The contemporary motto "whatever" has a very importantplace in my faltering spiritual development, I think.) What I want is to believe in the unseen--yes,hells, demons, other dimensions--not symbols but actual entities. As the Dalai Lama suggests inhis book, one must try to cultivate belief in the hells if one is going to have any real consistentmotivation for goodness. I think this is a bit overstated, or perhaps paraphrased cynically, but inpart I think it's true. I believe that I am generally motivated to kindness, honesty, and compassionby ethical concerns and concerns for my safety and the type of society I desire to live in, by myintelligence, as it were. But to get me to go out of my way to practice good behavior (particularlyin the areas of speech), I have to have a bigger carrot. Well, no, is that really true? It certainly iswith respect to prayer and mediation. Oh, Stephen get a hold of yourself. You are searching foran expedient; you want the credulity you imagine of your ancestors, a deep-rooted,unquestioning, naive belief in spooks. Yes, let me let on that I am getting a lot of support for theidea of hell through readings on mediumship, with one medium describing seeing the corelessbodies of individuals in the afterlife. The idea that we will pay for our lack of spiritualdevelopment after life is getting to me, and I like it. I only wish I could truly believe. This is theimportance of community. It's very hard to find those who believe in such things among mycircle. Thus, the potential for belief unwinds into the temporary fascination one has with a ghoststory, which is very soon forgotten. But some part of me believes that we will eventuallyrediscover these realms.
This time around; a virtual exorcism, and I am being only slightly facetious. Lauren has so manypersonal demons, each of which begged for attention throughout the night last night. I almostgave up this game. Honestly, these emotions: resentment, anger, fear, took nearly material formas they asserted their right to poke through me, and did much of the time. I barely had any sleepand made myself repeat the chants (newly borrowed out of my Buddhist primer, which I seeneeds more study from me, if I am to learn anything accurately--making lots of mistakes) until Icould rest us together. Lauren is truly a "smart-ass" and I don't like that word at all, but it's whatoccurred to me; she looks to any excuse for sarcasm, complaint, and righteous anger. I miss beingfree. This morning to quell her we went to a Russian Orthodox liturgy (beautiful!), a ChristianScience meeting, a PRS meeting, and to the bookstore. "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgivethose who trespass against us" calmed her down. How simple and beautiful is the Lord's prayer,and how powerful. Tonight she is letting me go. I will see what she has to say, but I can nolonger stay here.--Stephen
Oh, my god. I am back, Thank God, and I am a fat pig thanks to Stephen! and his tacos andtakeout. Oh, my god, I can barely fit into my pants. Anyway, what an experience. Blah blah blahis my first reaction to Stephen's writing--and my own. We could barely get through this timearound. We are incompatible. I really do feel like a demon, or that I do have so many personalproblems that can't spare themselves for an exercise like this. Stephen is right--I have a lot ofanger and resentment, and a restlessness that is hard to control. Well, that should have beenobvious to me. I look at my usual art work and I think, "Why do I write these nasty things? ButI'm such a nice person!" I guess I am not, or at least not a particularly sweet one. Now I'mlooking at all Steve's books on the Dalai Lama, and Christ, and I'm like, well, maybe I'll getback to them. I tried some of his chants or mantras and they were okay. I am spiritually lazy. (Hechides himself for this, but I AM lazy!) I think I will try again once I get to past the difficulty ofmy own resentments, even toward Stephen for calling me a demon. You know right after he left,I pranced around and laughed, so glad I was to be back!! and rid of that self-effacing, self-servingprig! hahahahaahaha
And another thing, I am really tired of self-righteous "spiritual people" who are half-the timeignorant of their own faults while speaking in low, undulating tones about everyone's else lack ofdevelopment. Jesus! I am tired of myself and my desire to be a good girl--cause I think that'swhat Stephen really is. Maybe I will go straight to hell. I'm tired of the language and theself-judgment and the judgment of others. Why can't spiritual people have a fault withouttreating it like it's some droplet from heaven everyone has to gather round and stare into. I feelalmost insane: "bad Lauren, good Stephen, bad Lauren." You know, one thing I take from all thisis that it's just fine to be an insane bitch. I think I will raise the level a notch or two on my cursedpersonality. I think I've been holding back.
One thing Stephen is right about is about the nature of documentation. I really don't see anywayto accurately document this thing, if you call it a performance. It's really not about theexterior--yes, people met Stephen and had their feelings about him, but the heart of theperformance is in the personal transformation, which is far more informative to me and I reallythink it's the most interesting part for others. Okay, because S. had little to do with gender issues.That Stephen is male, or male-ish, or neither male or female, is his own thing. Moreover, thishad, for me, anyway, nothing to do with what it feels like when someone you know altersslightly. I mean that is only a kind of curiosity. Some people were mad, some were afraid, someintrigued. That is not really very interesting to me. The real issue of the performance is theexperience for the performer. To know that one can enter another world, another type ofdisposition rather freely and to go through this transformation, even if it doesn't last as in mycase, that is what is interesting. I think a lot about the desire for transformation of one's identity,via performance, the Intenet, clubbing, etc., that is so much a part of our contemporary life andwhich was perhaps unthinkable in the recent past. One can adopt a new being, that I know, andit's the collection of souls inside oneself that's so interesting. This is a period in which thesepossibilities can flourish and not just in California!. Shifting presence can be a therapeutic way ofdealing with the complexities of contemporary life, of overcoming barriers to change, even ofreexamining the idea of being set in a particular body with a set attitude toward that body. Forme, it also helped me looked at myself from the outside, and to ultimately accept degrees of whatI saw. I also am thinking of identify-based art of the past and present, which of course compelsme. But I don't think identity is a fixed thing. I'm speaking as a white woman, so my position isnaturally biased and informed by a certain history. But what I really mean is that the interior isnot necessarily fixed. Yes, I can argue that Stephen is an aspect of myself that I wish to promoteand that this performance provided me the excuse for a charade. I can pursue that line and it haslegitimacy, but it is not related to my experience. For a time, I felt truly relieved my oldprejudices and, in some instances, old hang-ups about others, although they really assertedthemselves this second time around. Obviously my attitude toward the church was important. Iam not very sympathetic to Christians, I am sorry, because I think the religion is nourishing, butI have run into many sanctimonious and cruel church people. Stephen's interest in Christianitychanged my mind. When he took me to the orthodox church, I felt so content and moved by theceremony that I felt sympathy toward the religion and even a desire for it, its warmth, its coremessage of love and forgiveness and, in many churches, of service. I could hear Jesus' namewithout being uncomfortable and am even drawn toward the practice. I lost many formerpreoccupations: art, art-making, the art world, childhood--hahaha--all these relativelyunproductive interests. Stephen doesn't have any such interests and so for the first time in my lifeI actually just lived. I even felt a little guilty, because it didn't feel like work, or art or anything. Itdid feel liberating, because even though I make fun of him and was mad at him this time, hehelped me. He also helped me to love myself a little more. This sounds corny, but I was glad tobe myself again and I kind of glad of my little irritating habits--carping, sarcasm, even if onlybecause they are familiar--like an old beat up couch. You know, I felt a little bit more human andless flawed than I thought.
I have to ask myself why I chose Stephen or visa versa. It occurs to me just now that I alwayscompare myself to others and make myself out to be less than. So if I'm around a mathematicallyinclined person, I feel awkward because I can't do math; if I'm around someone who makes lace,I feel bad because I can't do lace, or the same with sports, animal-lovers, and on and on. I knowthat one of my fears is that I will never be spiritually developed, never spend adequate time awayfrom materialist pursuits to see life more clearly nor have the discipline to meditate or readreligious texts or practice anything. I am naturally impulsive, hot-headed, and everything else thatI've been talking about. But why don't I also say that I do truly do my best to respect otherpeople, to listen to others' complaints, to help people when they need it, and to give to others,even to anticipate their needs (something that I have to actually STOP myself from doing.) Moreover, there are, in my opinion, plenty of professed spiritual people who exhibit little
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